Embark on a fascinating one-day auto tour through Upper Galilee, filled with cultural encounters, natural beauty, geopolitical insights, and tantalising cuisine. Start the day by visiting the Druze village of Hurfeish, a unique community with a rich cultural tapestry, and the Maronite village of Jish, famous for its cherry harvest. Both communities offer a chance to meet locals and learn about their customs and traditions.
From there, proceed to Pa'ar Cave, a geological marvel formed over thousands of years, providing a serene break from the day's activities. The tour then continues to Mount Adir, where the realities of the region's complex geopolitics come into sharp focus with views over southern Lebanon, the scene of the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
Conclude the day in style at Adelina, a restaurant in Kibbutz Kabri set in a beautifully restored old stone building with a Spanish-style veranda. Here, indulge in a menu inspired by the flavours of Spain, including tapas, succulent meat and fish dishes, homemade soups, and refreshing sangria. The time is not just a journey through landscapes but also a deep dive into the rich tapestry of communities that make up this fascinating region, culminating in a gastronomic experience that promises to delight.
The mountains of Upper Galilee have often provided refuge for persecuted groups in the Holy Land. For example, the city of Peki'in, which can be seen directly opposite us, contains a cave where, according to tradition, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) hid. It was here that the radiance of the Zohar was revealed to him, leading to the creation of the Kabbalah, a central text of mystical teaching. After establishing their religion in the eleventh century, the Druze also faced persecution and settled in the mountains of Galilee, such as around Mount Zvul. From here, one can see the peak of Mount Meron, the highest mountain in Upper Galilee, standing approximately 1200 meters above sea level.
During the times of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, the start of the lunar month was communicated to the inhabitants of Galilee through the lighting of fires on high mountains. Later, these mountains became sacred among different peoples of Galilee, notably the Druze. The Druze particularly venerate Mount Zvul, named after Zebulun, the eleventh son of Jacob and Leah, who is believed to be buried there. Zebulun is revered as a prophet by the Druze. Since he was born in the month of Tishrei according to the Jewish calendar, which corresponds to September, the Druze annually celebrate this event on Mount Zvul on the tenth of September.
The Shrine of Al-Nabi Sabalan, located in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel, is a sacred site for the Druze community. It's dedicated to the prophet Sabalan, identified with the Biblical figure Zebulun, the sixth son of Jacob and Leah. The shrine is on Mount Zvul, a place of religious pilgrimage and communal gatherings for the Druze people. Due to the unique beliefs of the Druze, which incorporate elements from Abrahamic religions along with Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, and other philosophical and mystical traditions, the site also has significance in the region's broader context of religious history. Each year, especially in September, the Druze commemorate the birth of Zebulun at this shrine, marking it as an essential event in their religious calendar.
The Druze religion originated in Egypt during the 11th century, during the reign of the Fatimid Caliphate. However, the faith is often attributed to Hamza ibn Ali ibn Ahmad, an Ismaili scholar regarded as the primary founder. He started the trust with five other principal initiates, collectively known as "Hudud al-Din," these six individuals are highly revered within the Druze faith.
The Druze flag, also known as the Epistles of Wisdom banner, features five colour stripes, each representing a different aspect of their belief system. Each colour corresponds to a different cosmic principle, or Hadd, and a prophet associated with it. For example, theen represents 'Aql (Mind, Intellect) and the prophet Abraham. Red symbolizes Nafs (Soul, Psyche) and the prophet Noah. Yellow is for Kalima (Word) and the prophet Moses. Blue stands for Sabq (Precedent) and the prophet Jesus. Lastly, the white stripe signifies Tali' (Imminent) and the prophet Muhammad. The five-coloured flag thus visually encapsulates the core principles of the Druze faith.
The Maronites of Jish, a village in Northern Israel, are steeped in a rich history and strong traditions dating back to the early centuries of Christianity. They have preserved the Aramaic language, which is believed to have been spoken by Jesus, and their religious customs are distinct from other Christian communities. Their community and connection to the land have been maintained despite numerous historical adversities and changes. In recent years, cherry cultivation has been adopted by the villagers, not only because of favourable environmental conditions but also as a profitable venture. The decision to grow cherries, made just five years ago, has added another layer to their diverse historical tapestry, further demonstrating the adaptability and resilience of the Maronite community in Jish.
Cultivating cherries requires particular conditions, all found near the village of Jish at the foot of Mount Meron. Firstly, cherries thrive in well-drained, fertile soils, which are abundant in this region due to the mountainous topography and the organic matter contributed by the surrounding forests. The trees also require a significant amount of chill hours during winter, with temperatures between 32°F and 45°F (0°C and seven °C), to ensure a good yield in the spring; Mount Meron's altitude provides this cooler climate. Winters in the area are typically wet, which cherries need for proper growth and development, while the summers are dry, which is also beneficial as it helps prevent fungal diseases. Finally, while cherries need total sun exposure, the moderate temperatures provided by Mount Meron's elevation shield them from extreme heat, ensuring they grow healthy and flavorful.
Alongside cherry cultivation, the Maronite community in Jish also cultivates almond and grape vines, a testament to the versatility of the region's climate and soil. Almond trees are remarkably resilient, tolerating the region's dry summers and mild winters well, and their early blossoming aligns perfectly with the end of the rainy season. The cultivation of grapes, on the other hand, benefits from the area's cool nights and warm, dry days, a climate pattern ideal for producing high-quality grapes with concentrated flavours, which is why this area has a longstanding tradition of winemaking.
John Deere and David Brown are two historically significant names in the world of agriculture, with their tractors widely used on farms such as Savannah near Jish. John Deere, founded in 1837 by a blacksmith named John Deere in Illinois, USA, started with the invention of the steel plough, revolutionising farming by improving soil preparation. David Brown Tractors was a British company established in 1936 by David Brown, an English engineer and entrepreneur known for its role in developing and manufacturing a range of gearboxes and tractor systems.
John Deere tractors are recognised for their durability and innovation, with a reputation for introducing pioneering technology, such as the earliest commercially successful, self-scouring steel plough and advanced precision farming systems in their modern machines. David Brown tractors, on the other hand, have a reputation for being straightforward, reliable, and easy to maintain. These features were valued highly in the challenging conditions of British farming and remain attractive to farmers worldwide today.
The choice of these two brands of tractors at Savannah Farm underscores the importance of reliability, durability, and technological advancement in effective farming practices.
In the village of Jish, the bountiful cherry harvest is sold by kilo, offering fresh, high-quality cherries to locals and visitors alike. Additionally, the villagers utilise their produce to create an array of homemade products, such as sweet and savoury cherry compotes and locally-made wines, which reflect their longstanding winemaking traditions. During the almond season, freshly harvested almonds are also available, showcasing the richness of Jish's agricultural offerings.
Pa'ar Cave, located near the village of Sasa in Upper Galilee, is a captivating natural attraction. This limestone karstic cave features a fascinating underground world formed over thousands of years by water flowing through soluble bedrock. The cave's expansive chambers and corridors showcase an impressive array of speleothems, including stalactites and stalagmites, which form breathtaking natural sculptures. The temperature inside the cave remains constant year-round, providing a fantastic retreat during Israel's hot summer months. A visit to Pa'ar Cave offers a unique glimpse into the region's geological history, while its serene, otherworldly ambience leaves a lasting impression on every visitor.
Mount Adir, located in the Upper Galilee region of Israel, is an important location for understanding the history of the Second Lebanon War. From its summit, one can observe a panoramic view of southern Lebanon, providing a tangible connection to the events of the 2006 conflict. This war was a month-long military campaign between Hezbollah, a militant group based in Lebanon, and the Israeli Defense Forces, sparked by Hezbollah's cross-border raid and the subsequent capture of two Israeli soldiers. The war resulted in significant loss and displacement on both sides and ended with a United Nations-brokered ceasefire. Today, the vista from Mount Adir offers a peaceful contrast to its turbulent history, serving as a reminder of past conflicts and the importance of ongoing efforts for regional stability.
The Second Lebanon War in 2006 was a significant event in the Middle East, revealing complex geopolitical dynamics and long-term effects on Lebanon and Israel. The conflict was triggered by a cross-border raid by Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia militant group, during which they captured two Israeli soldiers. This event was part of a broader geopolitical context deeply rooted in historical and territorial disputes involving Israel, Lebanon, and other regional powers.
The war lasted 34 days and involved intense aerial and ground fighting. On the Israeli side, it killed 121 soldiers and 44 civilians, with over 1,000 injured. In Lebanon, estimates suggest that between 1,000 and 1,200 people were killed, most civilians, with around 4,400 injured and nearly 1 million displaced.
The conflict ended with a ceasefire on August 14, 2006, brokered by the United Nations through Resolution 1701. The resolution called for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, as well as the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon, marking the formal end to hostilities. However, the after-effects of the war have had lasting impacts on the region.
In Israel, the war provoked widespread public debate about the country's military strategy and led to a reconsideration of its defence policies. In Lebanon, the war devastated the country's infrastructure and economy, with billions of dollars needed for reconstruction. Additionally, it increased political tensions within the country and heightened Hezbollah's influence in Lebanese politics.
Moreover, the Second Lebanon War also affected regional geopolitics, reaffirming the role of non-state actors like Hezbollah in Middle East conflicts. It underscored the complexities of achieving lasting peace in the region, emphasising the importance of diplomatic efforts alongside military actions. Looking at it from Mount Adir today reminds me of this tumultuous period in the region's history.
Adelina restaurant in Kibbutz Kabri is a delightful fusion of history, design, and culinary excellence. Housed in a beautifully restored old stone building, the restaurant exudes an authentic, rustic charm complemented by a Spanish-style veranda and garden that beckon diners to unwind in its tranquil surroundings. The interior design harmoniously blends traditional and contemporary elements, creating a warm, inviting atmosphere that perfectly complements the creative and delicious dishes served.
Adelina restaurant offers an unforgettable culinary journey through Spain with its diverse and flavorful menu. Patrons can start with a selection of traditional Spanish tapas and small dishes that range from mouth-watering chorizo to patatas bravas and gambas al ajillo, showcasing the rich diversity of the country's cuisine. Main courses include a variety of meat and fish dishes cooked to perfection and imbued with Spanish herbs and spices, while the restaurant's homemade soups provide comfort and warmth. The dining experience is rounded off with their signature sangria, a perfect balance of wine and fresh fruit, offering a taste of Spain's lively culinary spirit.